Tuesday, December 7

The Sugar Camp Quilt - Jennifer Chiaverini

Dorothea Granger has known for as long as she can remember that her family are dependent on the kindness and support of her cantankerous Uncle Jacob, a strict man who seems to see the good in none. While his heir, her younger brother Jonathan, is studying in Baltimore, Dorothea and her parents live in his home and are dependent on his support. Dorothea’s wages as school marm go to her uncle, and her parents work under his direction on the farm, a galling step down for a couple who once co-owned a Transcendentalist commune with a group of like-minded Christians, until Thrift Farm flooded and the group disbanded. Uncle Jacob was apparently once a gentle and loving soul, but the deaths of his young abolitionist wife and their infant sons changed that. Now his only family is his younger brother Robert, sister-in-law Lorena, and niece; he appears to take no pleasure in their company or pride in their accomplishments, choosing to spend most of his time alone in his barn or tending the maple trees that are their source of support. But things are not always as they seem, and in the space of only a few months Dorothea’s life changes profoundly – she loses her position at the local school house to a man rumoured to have once been in jail, is shunned by a young man she thought shared her tendresse, and becomes involved in the underground railway, smuggling run-away slaves from the south through Pennsylvania to the safe haven of Canada. Though technically part of the Elm Creek Quilt series, The Sugar Camp Quilt stands alone, taking place wholly in the mid-nineteenth century. Quilts and quilting, of course, play a significant role in this story that is compelling and interesting. I’ve long had an interest in the abolitionist movement, at a remove, of course. Chiaverini’s usual attention to detail is present in The Sugar Camp Quilt, with perhaps more research than in the contemporary novels but at no time to I feel hit over the head with the Stick of I researched This. There’s romance, of a discreet nature appropriate to the time, the revelation of secrets, and some very nice character development. I suspect I’m starting to overdo the series, in an effort to get them all read before my self-imposed library diet for 2011, but The Sugar Camp Quilt was a very pleasant way of staying in Chiaverini’s well-crafted world while taking a break from her more familiar characters. – Alex

The Elm Creek Quilt series:
1. The Quilter's Apprentice
2. Round Robin
3. The Cross-Country Quilters
The Runaway Quilt
5. The Quilter's Legacy
The Master Quilter
7. The Sugar Camp Quilt
8. The Christmas Quilt
9. Circle of Quilters
10. The Quilter's Homecoming
11. The New Year's Quilt
12. The Winding Ways Quilt
13. The Quilter's Kitchen

14. The Lost Quilter
15. A Quilter's Holiday
16. The Aloha Quilt

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